During the week of 19-23 March, at least 2300 delegates descended upon the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre (SECC) to take part in the 2012 IATEFL Conference. Of these 2300, 29 people were lucky enough to receive scholarships that enabled them to take part. I was one of these lucky 29, the winner of Cactus’ “Cactus to Conference” scholarship 2012. As well as my conference entry fee, Cactus very kindly provided £400 towards expenses and membership to IATEFL for one year. This enabled me to also participate in a Pre-Conference Event (PCE). I chose the Teacher Development Special Interest Group’s (TD sig) workshop on Drama and Improvisation. It was a fantastic start to an equally fantastic week.
What a plethora of presentations, what a wealth of workshops followed the Pre-Conference Day! Luckily, I have a smartphone and was able to use the brand new conference app to help me plan my time in such a way as to make the most of everything available. For me, one of the highlights of the week was watching talks given by some of the leading lights of EFL. A plenary by Adrian Underhill on “Mess and Progress”, Jim Scrivener on the need for demand-high teaching, Luke Meddings and Lindsay Clandfield on subversive teaching, Michael Swan on “Grammar doesn’t have to be Grey”, Jeremy Harmer who gave us six pertinent questions to consider. Particularly exciting was an informal follow-up discussion on the talk about demand-high teaching with Jim Scrivener and Adrian Underhill, which took place in a bar in the Crowne Plaza on Thursday 22nd.
Another highlight, the flip side of the coin to the first, was seeing first-time speakers give talks at the conference. For example, Sandy Millin, winner of the John Haycroft Classroom Exploration Scholarship, delivered her very first conference presentation on getting students to use online resources to help them study English. This was not limited to scholarship winners, of course. I also saw a particularly interesting presentation done by a second year teacher who had undertaken a Dogme project at his school in Spain. Seeing people present for the first time made it seem possible that perhaps at the next IATEFL conference I myself could present for my first time. Everybody must start somewhere and this is the great value of the Cactus to Conference scholarship: it allows an inexperienced EFL practitioner to attend this conference and enjoy all the benefits of it, which sows the seeds for future professional development, which may not have been possible without this inspiration.
One multi-sensory memory that will stay with me as I pursue my career in teaching EFL is that feeling of being right at the forefront of ideas, amongst the buzz that can only be generated by a group of people – in this case from all over the world – with a shared passion. Thank you, Cactus, for making this experience possible for me!
Find out how you could attend the 2013 IATEFL Conference courtesy of the Cactus to Conference Scholarship…
Picture: Jenny Johnson, Academic Director at Cactus, and Elizabeth Pinard, Cactus to Conference Winner 2012.